Wednesday, August 16, 2006

On Local wisdoms

The best take on local wisdoms I've read lately comes from the arts scene.

Last Sunday, Kompas featured Sardono Kusumo, a well-respected Indonesian dancer. Sardono re-examined (or rather 'day-dreamed'/ngelamun) about Indonesia's geographic position in the Pacific Ring of Fire and what it means for its civilization. He thought that the term "tanah air" (literally meaning "soil and water"), that Sukarno coined as a loose alternative for the word "country," does not only signify the conceptual, but also the real.

During the era of classic Indonesian kingdoms, the locations of these kingdoms move about, probably due to earthquake and tsunami impacts. The partly-destructed and burried condition of Borobudur and Prambanan temples at the time they were founded by the Dutch may also strengthen this hypothesis. The term "tanah air" thus may have been a call to Indonesia to give proper attention to its soil and water, as her life depends much on them.
In that case, should (Indonesian) modernity be redefined?

"Yes, because much (of it) contradicts the character of where we build lives with such soil and water."
Sardono's picture taken from Asialink, Univ. of Melbourne.

In another article, the daily profiled an exhibition titled "Understanding Merapi," in which the Merapi Community calls for better understanding of the different perceptions when dealing with the volcano.
For thousands of years harmony has been created between the Merapi community and the volcano through a mutual way of life. The people gain their livelihood from Merapi and, in turn, the mountain's nature is preserved by the people. This bond between human and nature was destructed during the evacuation phases. The sensitivity of people's intuition were put aside because they were considered irrational.
This quote reminded me of one of my favorite books, Staying Alive, by Vandana Shiva. Here Shiva said that modernism and its brain-child, "development," has largely destructed nature, and marginalized women's ways of knowing, such as through intuition and story-telling, and replaced them with the so-called rationality.

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